About wryterinwonderland

Screenwriter, author, former English professor, contest judge, reviewer, editor, writing coach.

My Introduction to Totems Through Lucid Dreaming

My first big experience seeing future events began with a repetitive lucid dream in 1989, concerning my father. I wrote about that experience in an earlier blog.

When that first dream appeared, it was more like a nightmare. I was scared and woke up in a panic. I felt powerless.

As the dream repeated itself, that’s when I learned about the power of lucid dreaming, first with the help of a screenwriter friend, Kelley Essoe, followed by reading books and informative, credible online articles.

Lucid dreaming occurs when you realize you’re dreaming and you allow yourself to stay in the dream. You’re not controlling the outcome, but rather, allowing yourself to be an observer of yourself in the dream. At the same time, you’re aware of your physical surrounds—movement of others or noises you can hear.

I began putting that information to work, making myself go through the dream, until finally, the dream came to its natural end. Once it did, the dream stopped. At the time, I wasn’t sure what it all meant. Was this a dream in code? Of symbolism?

It was only after my father’s heart attack that I realized the repetitive dream had been a prophecy, giving me the ability to foresee a future event, with no code or symbolism whatsoever.

A few years later, another dream began repeating itself, night after night after night.

The dream always started with me standing in the middle of a street. I would run, stick out my arms as if they were wings, and with one downward push of my arms, I would lift off, gliding forward.

So began my nightly flights.

Thankfully, I never crashed, but there were times I felt I would. Always, at the last minute, I slowed and pulled into a perfect landing on my feet, almost as if gliding, much like ducks and geese on a lake.

When flying, I would go over and under wires, over buildings and mountains. Sometimes, I would head out into space, always connected to Earth by a thin silver thread, seen anytime I looked down. The scene was both breathtaking and scary at the same time. Then in that same second of a glance down, I would be in a dive, racing toward Earth, familiar landscape looming up, all the while holding my breath waiting to crash. Instead, I would swoop into the familiar glide, coming to a safe stop.

Despite the fact that there were people around whenever I took off, no one ever saw me!

Even stranger was that when I returned, everyone was gone. No family. No friends. No strangers, animals, planes. Nothing. Just me, the road, the wires, the trees, and the sky.

eagle - canstockphoto8120543It was at this time when the bald eagle entered my life in a noticeable way.

Back in 1988, I had attended a writer’s conference in Seattle and had brought home a souvenir, a small hand-carved bald eagle made from the solidified ash of Mount St. Helen, which had erupted in 1980. I kept that souvenir by my computer.

Then, in the mid-nineties, I found this large movie-poster size picture of a bald eagle flying through trees that resembled the Northwest forests. I couldn’t stop staring at it, so I bought it, and hung it in my office. Anytime I took my gaze off my computer monitor, I was looking at that poster.

Soon after, I recognized that my second marriage was in trouble. Having gone down that road before in my previous marriage where I went to counseling all by myself, I was reluctant to travel that same solo road again. Still, I hesitated, not sure what direction to take.

That’s when the dreams began.

One afternoon, I was talking on the phone to a screenwriter friend, Mark Posey, telling him about my repeated dreams of flying. He knew nothing about my souvenir, the poster on the wall, or the fact that I was unhappy with the direction of my life, in particular my marriage. He did know about my desire to be a screenwriter—a situation that both of us chatted about from time to time, mostly in the screenwriting chatrooms we belonged to.

As I finished telling him about these dreams, he said, “Diana, you were meant to soar alone.”

Immediately, my gaze when to the poster on the wall and goosebumps broke out on my arms, a chill running up and down my spine.

In that moment, I saw another vision I’d been having for years. Me living alone. Surrounded by books.

He was right. I needed to soar and fly on my own.

I’d love to say that I made changes right away and that I became that happy screenwriter.

Unfortunately, no, it didn’t happen that way. Instead, I entered into a fifteen-year-journey, where that year I did divorce again, but it would be another year before I reinvented myself, where I went back to school and officially entered a career that blended well with my writing. I became a college professor.

During that fifteen-year period, the bald eagle remained a totem, but now the moose—telling me to go the slow and steady path—took the lead as the primary totem. During my master’s program, the dragon took the lead.

Today, while the dragon is still a strong totem for me, the raven and crow have entered my life, as messengers. (Just as I proofed this last sentence, crows outside my windows started cawing loudly.) The bald eagle and moose are still there but at the fringes of this totem landscape.

Since that time when the bald eagle first became my totem and where I represented it in my dreams with the ability to fly, I’ve learned to pay attention to all visions, whether they are delivered during waking hours or in dreams as they provide solutions to problems or are visionary of future events.

Additionally, I pay special attention to an event or conversation when one of my totems shows up.

Since those early days, I’ve learned that totems can come and go. We’re not limited to just one. We can have a number of totems. I’ve had seven so far in my lifetime. And, each one has offered me specific direction or frame of mind as I proceed forward.

The Magic of Plants

The Magic of Plants

Once upon a time, in the world of big corporation and cubical landscapes, there was this small, dry, forgotten palm.  It stood only about six inches high and was near death.  Its owner had vacated the premises and apparently stuck the plant on the windowsill, which was accelerating its death due to continual bright, direct sun all day long and no water.

I took pity on it and took it home.

Conditions at home were just the opposite.  A small apartment that received minimum indirect daylight, as the windows faced east and the shades shut while I was at work.  That meant light only came into the room on the weekends.

Miraculously, the plant survived.  It must have liked the bigger pot,  better soil, and cooler temps.  Plus, I was talking to it and watering it regularly.  Somewhere, I had read that plants liked being talk to.  Something about breathing in our carbon dioxide exhaling breaths.  Since it exhaled oxygen, we were a good match.

I lived in that apartment for several years and the plant grew slowly.  Surprisingly, the plant blossomed a couple times, despite the darkness.

Then, I moved to a spacious modular, a.k.a. double-wide mobile home.

Spacious with many windows, at the opposite end of the front door was an enormous kitchen and a sliding glass door that led to a small porch that butted up against the trees.  Even when the vertical blinds were closed, the kitchen was still filled with light.  The plant thrived there.

Other than my watering it regularly, we shared quarters for a year.  During that time, I repotted him, giving its roots more room.  It blossomed again that year.  I began calling him Hank, sometimes Buddy.

Then I moved to small apartment again in another community, but this apartment had a sliding glass door that led to a small cement pad porch.  This time, my light came from the northwest, more north than west, but even with the shades drawn, which was most of the time while I was at work, there was ample light.

Even during the winter, if the sun was out, the room captured rays of the setting sun, even more during summer, particularly where Hank was positioned.  Additionally, he sat next to maple armoire, which reflected the heat with additional heat seeping through the armoire wall next to Hank, due to the TV and stereo equipment when turned on.

Hank thrived, despite the long days with drawn shades.  For the first couple of years, several times each year, the plant produced new fronds and blossomed multiple times.  I’d talk to it as I pruned off the lower dead leaves that appeared on occasion, telling him I was doing it for its own good.  I sensed that he believed me.  Then, he began sprouting new leaves every other month and blossoming even more during the year.

When I got a treadmill, to make room, I slid the plant closer to my writing desk.  It wasn’t long before  Hank 2012his leaves began to mingle with the leaves of my work, the books, and manuscripts.  Anytime I had to move him away from my desk, I sensed that he was unhappy.

So for the bulk of the twelve years I lived in that apartment, he thrived, turning into a blustered four-foot tall palm whose width filled the non-opening side of that sliding glass door.

And then, I’ve moved again.  Hank moved into the new apartment, in another new community a month before me.  His job was to clean up the air due to new carpet installation, the smell which I was allergic to.

He did his job well.  I placed him in the bedroom, where the brightest light appeared despite the closed blinds 24/7.  While he was helping me clean the air, I suspect the air was a bit toxic for him, too.

About a month after I moved in, I noticed the lower leaves were turning yellow.  I realized, too, that the water was different.  Not to mention having moved in the middle of winter.

Lots of changes for a creature that prefers gradual changes rather than lots of sudden to its surroundings.

I think its isolation in the bedroom was a tad depressing, once I moved in.  I was out in the living room all day, writing.  I could hear him expressing that he wanted to be near me again during the day.

For a while, he sat close to the big window, capturing the sun’s vibrant energy as the blinds are open all day.  But now, he’s back near my desk, once again his leaves touching mine.

He’s starting to get new leaves again, so he must be happy.  I’ll know it’s true once the blossoms appear again.  Today, Hank is easily five-foot tall and wider than ever, almost too big for my 520- square-foot apartment, but I won’t part with it, as he’s part of my family.

Some people have cats, dogs, or birds.  I have a plant.  I’m a nature person.  I need trees and plants around me.

More than one tree, shrub, or plant has communicated with me in my lifetime and more do so every day.  Having read The Secret Life of Plants: a Fascinating Account of the Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Relations Between Plants and Man (1989) by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird years ago, I can’t wait to read about The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate Discovers from a Secret World (2016) by Peter Wohlleben and Tim Flannery that comes out this fall.  It’s always nice when science proves what I’ve known for some time.

My happily ever after?  Hank is thriving, I have a flower bed again, thanks to my daughter and grandson, and I can enjoy the beautiful red maple tree outside my front door.

As the plants thrive, so do I.

Toying with me . . .

The other night, about 11:30 p.m., after another long day of learning as I was working on a new major writing project, I came across a photo of a storyboard that was now missing.

Diana's plotting board

Seeing the picture of Post-Its on the storyboard, I hungered after those little squares, needing them for my newest project where I was stalled.  Those squares represented a night’s worth of plotting and planning from years ago, and they were needed for this new project that has an upcoming deadline.  I really didn’t want to have to reinvent this story again.

Looking at that picture, I began making promises with the Universe that if I could find this storyboard, I would do this and I would do that the following day.  This and that being items that had little to do with my writing, and which I’d been procrastinating about.

You have to realize that two weeks earlier, I had spent two entire days tearing this place part—more like re-organizing everything—trying to find this storyboard, or thinking I had taking the Post-Its off the board, the sheet(s) of paper where the Post-Its could now reside.

I even went through all my storyboards.

This particular storyboard was missing from the pile.  In fact, I pulled out all the storyboards from behind the always-opened utility room door where I kept them and stacked them in the living room where I could work with them later.

So here I was at midnight, having seen this photograph, wanting it back in my possession, and saying to all the entities that reside here with me but on a different vibrational level, “Give me back my storyboard and I’ll do nothing but taxes and cleaning the house tomorrow.  No learning, no playing on my iPad, no reading.  I want it back.  You’ve had your fun.  I want it back.”

Driven by a sudden urge to look behind that utility room door where all the other storyboards had been stashed and were now sitting in my living room, my steps took me to the utility room.

I stood there thinking, no way. 

I pulled on the door.  Resting up against the wall, where the other storyboards had stood, guess what I found.

Yup.

 

Lost

There was a time when I was living in the Deep South where I was lost in countryside.  I was in unfamiliar territory, on my way to do a photo interview of Andersonville—a Civil War, outdoor Southern prison, located near Columbus, Georgia.

My getting lost had started with a detour.  I started meandering finding lots of new roads, places I wanted to return and visit later.

But now, I needed to get serious about getting back to the highway, I needed to be there while the sun was still high in the sky.

I came to a T in the road.  Decision time.

I sat there having no clue whether I should turn right or left.  That’s when the voices started.

My rational brain voice told me to turn left, and I was given all the rationalizations as to why I should turn left.  Every one of those rationalizations made sense.

But then, that little voice, that little intuitive voice I’d recently started hearing told me to turn right.  There was no rationalization of any kind.  When I questioned it, all I heard wwas, “Trust me.”

Against all rationalizations, I turned right.  Around the bend and half a mile down the road was the highway.  Had I turned left, I would have ended up in Alabama and hours away from where I needed to be.

That was the day I decided to always listen to the little voice.

Okay, so yes, there have been a few minor occasions where I haven’t listened, such as not eating the rest of that cake late last night, but which I did anyway, and which had disastrous results several hours later.  Truth be told, I was told not to buy the cake in the first place.

When it comes to my sweet tooth, that little voice and I battle, and while I might win in that moment of purchase, that little voice is always right.

Always.

Mike McGuire’s Send Off – January 19, 2016

We said goodbye today (Jan 19) to my second cousin, Michael David McGuire, who died suddenly last Wednesday, the 13th.  The service was beautiful, the memories bringing both tears and laughter for family, friends, and his beloved working family from the Michigan State Police community throughout many locales.

My father’s family is large.  While I know my first cousins once removed (my father’s cousins) well, I don’t know my second cousins the same way.  I was the first born of the second cousins, which easily number several dozen or more, some I’ve yet to meet.  My aunt and uncle were only three years older than me, with some of dad’s cousins only eight or ten years older.  As a child in the middle of this big boisterous family, I preferred listening to the adult conversations, sitting in a corner of the big farmhouse kitchen, than playing in the parlor with the little kids.  The adults’ laughter was always infectious.  Still is today.

As for all of the second cousins’ kids, well, I can’t keep track of them all.  In fact, I’ll confess that due to my living in the South for a decade and a career kept me away from a number of reunions and family gatherings, I have a lot of catching up to do.

When I was growing up, from time to time, because I was older, I was asked to babysit for my second cousins, which included Mike and his younger brother, Robert.  The job was always an adventure, as they were close in age, would collaborate with each other and hide from me or be investigating something they shouldn’t.  They were always in action.

The next time I would saw him, over 20 years later, he was an adult, married, and with kids.

Unfortunately, because we are a large family, there are many funerals and today was one of those days.  While we always enjoy reuniting with family members and being introduced to kids and spouses we may not have met, we never like the circumstances, such as was today’s event.

I attended Monday’s visitation and while driving home, I sensed Mike’s presence, but I didn’t hear anything.  Just a comforting presence.

The next morning, however, when I got up, I keep hearing the word, “Giddy up!”  All that morning I heard it said as a gleeful exclamation.  Not a part of my everyday vernacular, I knew I was hearing Mike’s voice.

During the service, that included a bagpipe, the Michigan State Police guard,  who additionally provided a flag to Linda, his wife, recordings of favorite music, there was one particular silence where I felt the urge to say “Giddy up, boys.  Giddy up.”  The urge was strong and I sensed it would bring laughter, but I refrained.  As confident as I was that this was Mike speaking, I questioned the timing.

As fellow troopers got up one-by-one and started telling stories about Mike, including hearing he would tell them to “Saddle up,” as they rolled out on various duties, I discovered he was all about making people laugh, that he enjoying laughing as much as he enjoyed his family, fishing, and his work.  Saying “Giddy up” in that silence was something Mike would have done.

Mike was a marine who served in the Gulf War, with a commanding presence due to his height and demeanor.  He served undercover, provided governor protection, to name a few of his various teams, and had been a medical first responder with his local fire department.

The love and affection his family, friends, and police brethren have for him was easily felt.  Deemed as a tough guy, he also had a soft heart for his family, friends, and the people he served, and anyone who needed help.

Mike was only 52, far too young to be gone.  The service was truly a celebration.  As a collected group, we provided him a fitting, loving send-off, which was surrounded and sheltered with his presence.

Giddyup, Mike.  Giddyup.

 

“Take the job” My Little Voice Commanded

The first true time I my little voice was tested in a big way that would definitively affect my future, my earning ability, and where I was cognizant of a true conflict between that little voice and my rational thoughts, or what I call my rational mind, was in 1988 when I was re-establishing myself after my second divorce.

I had just enough money start over: rent an apartment, put down deposits for the apartment and utilities, and buy groceries for about a month.  By the end of that month, I needed to have a full-time job.

The problem was I didn’t know what I wanted to do.  Previously, I worked in several fields, but mostly as a secretary or as a bookkeeper for a good portion of my adult life.  I had no degrees other than my Executive Secretarial certification obtained from a business school right after high school.  While I good at these two careers, I was bored by them and didn’t enjoy having my skills or expertise dismissed.

My real passion was in writing, but it failed to provide a stable income, plus I had no formal education in writing.  I was a self-taught writer—a successful one with various publications and genres, including three books published, but when it came to real jobs, I didn’t have the qualifications.  So, here I was needing a job but didn’t want to be someone’s secretary or bookkeeper again, and there was nothing I could do involving writing.

A friend suggested that I go to Hudson’s (now Macy’s) and apply.  Sales.  I can’t say that I had ever considered sales for myself, though I had sold Tupperware years earlier.  At the time, I didn’t like feeling I was being pushy, so I never considered myself to be sales material.  In fact, I disliked sales people immensely myself because so many were pushy.  Consequently, my interest wasn’t high.

For three weeks, I looked at ads, but the economy was tight and I had moved into a manufacturing community where jobs were being outsourced.  Jobs were few.

One day at the end of that third July week, I was in a sleeveless summer dress, sandals, and bare legs, my hair windblown from open car windows, approaching the mall.  I was running errands.  My little voice said, Go apply at Hudson’s.  Now.

“But I’m not prepared,” I argued.  “I’m not dressed properly.  I don’t have a résumé with me.”

Doesn’t matter.  Go anyway.

I knew better than to apply without looking professional.

The little voice pushed.  I argued, all in the matter of a couple blocks.  Approaching the last entrance, I found myself turning in despite my rational arguments.  Sheer gut instinct had turned the wheel of the car.

What’s the harm, I thought.  I can pick up an application and return it later when I was properly dressed.

I parked the car, grabbed my purse, sliding the strap on my shoulder, entering the closest door, which took me into the Men’s Department.  I approached the sales girl behind the register, asking for location of the main office.  Following her directions, I walked through several departments, noticing how many people were working, what they were doing, wondering what it would be like to work there, doing that type of work.

At the desk of the Customer Service desk, I asked for an application.  The gal behind that desk excused herself and came back with an older woman who was dressed in a business suit.

She introduced herself as the human resources director and gave me an application, asking me to fill it out right there.  I told her I didn’t have all the necessary information with me—all the addresses, reference information, etc., that I needed to fill out the application fully and correctly.

“That’s okay,” she said.  “You’d be doing me a favor by filling it out now.”

So, I did.  Prepared to hand it over and leave, I was surprised when she asked, “Are you able to do an interview right now?”

“But I’m not dressed properly.  I wasn’t prepared to do an interview.”

“That’s okay.”  Again, I was told I’d be doing her a favor.

We sat down and for the next ten or fifteen minutes, I answered the typical questions.  At the end of the interview, I expected her to tell me that she would get back to me.  Instead, she offered me a job on the spot, telling me that I would start in the Men’s Department.  I was surprised, to say the least.

Mentally, I knew what she was offering me wasn’t going to be money for me to pay my bills.  The pay was minimum wage and I needed a couple dollars more per hour in order to meet my minimum monthly expenses.  Minimum with no frills, no surprises.

I asked for the couple extra dollars.

I was told that no, that couldn’t happen.

My little voice spoke up.  Take it.

Mentally, I argued, saying But it isn’t enough.  I won’t be able to pay my bills.

It’s okay.  Take it.

But—

It’s okay.  Trust me.

While I had tested my little voice with smaller tasks before, this was the first big decision I’d be making based on its direction.  As usual, that little voice’s instruction conflicted with common reason and my rational mind.

As I sat there, looking at this woman who was waiting for my answer, I thought, what harm would it do?  I can always quit if I find another job or one I like better. 

“Okay,” I said, finally.

She asked me if I could start tomorrow.  I told her no, that I needed the weekend and that I could start the following week.  She then said, “Let me have you meet the manager you’ll be working for.”

Her name was Amy, but it would be several weeks before I learned what had happened.  Apparently, I already had the job, the minute I went up the clerk in the Men’s Department asking for a job application.  Amy had seen me come in.

As I strolled through the store, as I made my way to Customer Service (CS), Amy had taken a short cut, entering CS through a back door.  She told the director that if I was applying for a job, she wanted me in her department.

I took the job, working in the Men’s Department for a month, and received a raise that got me closer to my monthly minimum.  Half a year later, I moved to the Shoe Department, and a few months after that moved to Customer Service where my bookkeeping experience was put to use, as there were few employees who had that particular educated skill.  In the end, I became the department’s supervisor, which in time, would lead to other supervisory jobs, including working at Kellogg headquarters, where once again, my educational background, including my accounting background, was valued and appreciated.

That little voice had known far better than my rational mind.

Only later, as I looked back on my employment journey that would eventually lead me into education and the dream of working in the field of my passion—writing—did I understand how trusting that little voice had immense value.

Writing Down the Words: Making Magic Happen

I make lists.

Yes, I’m one of those.

I guess it’s because I like 1) seeing tasks accomplished, and 2) having direction for my day, particularly toward specific goals.  My daily To-Do list keeps me on track . . . well, most of the time.

I’ve always been a list maker since I can remember.  I found out that when I wrote down my goals rather than just thinking about them, the goals eventually became a reality.  I now believe that writing down my desires is a magical way for the Universe to know what I really want.  It’s not enough for me to say what I want, to vocalize.  Writing these goals, these desires down creates a strong commitment, a contract if you will, with the Universe.  I want these things badly enough that I was willing to put them to paper.

I was heartened some time again when I found support in the book, Write Your Own Magic: The Hidden Power in Your Words by Richard Webster.  He states that all “creativity is magic” and practiced by “Pythagoras, Leonardo da Vinci, and Isaac Newton” and that even “William Shakespeare made countless references to magic in this plays, and was obviously familiar with the subject.”

Once upon a time in my twenties, I wanted to become a writer.  I had no training whatsoever, other than high school English, being a voracious reader, and having an immense curiosity to learn.  When I said I wanted to be a published author, people—family and friends—laughed.  Over time, the laughter stopped.  My goals were coming true.

I have a planner—the hard copy kind—where I list goals/desires for the month.  Using that monthly goal list, I create my weekly list, and from that my daily list.

On July 14 of this year (2015), I was let go from my professor/admin position at a university where I’ve been employed for almost eleven years.  I served as an adjunct for a year and a half, and then with my M.F.A. degree in hand, I hired into a full-time in a position I served for the remainder of that time.  I understand completely why I was let go; it was a restructuring event due to enrollment decreases over the last few years, decreases that are affecting college campuses across the nation.  Honestly, if I had been in my supervisors’ shoes, I would have done the same thing.

That said, over the last couple of years as more duties were assigned to me, I found myself become more tired.  The joy I once had for the job was fading, assignment by new assignment.  My career change to academics was the result of my love of teaching non-academic classes, connecting with students of all ages, helping them re-awaken an earlier joy of writing, and showing them how to become better writers.  Plus, I enjoy teaching or coaching teachers how to teach writing.

I would come home so tired from work that I often needed a nap before bedtime.  I was sleeping upwards of 12 hours a day.  As a result, my creative writing was neglected.  That depressed me further.  During that time personal life events—family deaths and a major auto accident—were taking their toll on me.  I hid this tiredness, this depression well, diving into my writing for relief, which has always served me well in the past.

But it wasn’t enough.

Back in the spring, I asked the Universe to find a way for me to be to write more, but without it jeopardizing my ability to live, to pay bills.  Close to retirement, I was still obligated to my institution for another three years due to their generosity in helping me obtain my Ph.D.

In being let go, that obligation disappeared.  I realized I was free to write and that I could retire from the daily 40-hour week grind.

I am now writing to my heart’s content.  My future isn’t nailed down yet, but that’s okay for the moment.

Today, I looked at my planner and the list I created on July 1, my monthly To-Do list, which were mostly creative writing tasks.  Sadly, I realized I’ve not accomplished one thing on that list so far this month . . . with one exception.  I know I still have time to accomplish the rest of the list this month due to that one item.

The last entry read:  Open a way for me to do more writing.

The Universe does answer.